There would be few reasons to have children in your life were it not for the opportunity to visit upon them your pop cultural sins. Unless you enjoy finding strange debris floating in your drink or spending a lot of time shouting, “I HOLD THE SOLUTION!” while fighting off bubble-wand wielding toddlers in your backyard, sounding like a new order–if not lame–Eva Peron.
Without a doubt, the most natural, effortless means of embarrassing your kids is via music. Singing along to it. Dancing to it. Blasting it out of your car windows. And there’s just something about summer songs: they’re all about sweat, swagger, and sultriness, all things that you are forced to trade in the minute you utter the words, “SIT ON YOUR BOTTOM.”
Yes, whether you’re a parent, aunt, uncle, or godparent—if you own an iPod, then summer is your time to shine in the daily competition to embarrass the kids in your life. Here is your handy-dandy Official Summer Playlist Of Embarrassing Parents. Use sparingly around people you will ever ask for a loan, promotion, Presidential appointment, doctoral thesis review, or sex.
“Summertime” DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince - Perhaps the greatest tool in your arsenal, if you were born anytime before 1983. The 1991 summer pop-rap anthem about girls playin’ double-dutch and newly-washed cars is prime opportunity to mortify anyone under 25. Not only are you trying to rap (something very few parents not married to Beyoncé can do), you have the opportunity to shout terrifying things over the music. Try “I love The DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince!” and “This is a sample of Kool and the Gang!” The longer it takes you to spit out a musical artist’s name means the more opportunity to hyper-articulate it and add an extraneous “The” here or there. It’s gold. Embarrassment gold.
“Summer of ’69″ Bryan Adams - Two huge benefits: one, you get to say “69″ in front of your kids. As they grow older, you can wink at them and say, “Your mom knows a thing or two!” The other benefit: any song with a “WHOA!” ”HEY!” or “YEAH!” that you can really lay into as you pull into the mall parking lot is inherently mortifying.
“Boys of Summer” Don Henley - The beauty of singing along to this in front of your kids is that it lets you get really intense over something they don’t really understand (and neither do you). I have a theory that if you play this song in a crowd of 100 people, 98 of them will join in for “I saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac. A little voice inside my head said don’t look back, you can never look back.” If you gaze into the distance and mutter those lyrics, turning to your kids just as Henley sings, “Thought I knew what love was, what did I know,” it will fill them with dread, humiliation, and inexplicable guilt. Triple threat!
“California Gurls” Katy Perry with Snoop Dogg - Too much sex and swagger for anyone over 21 to sing without looking like Mrs. Doubtfire at a sorority mixer. Period. Bonus: you can say “Snoop Dogg” and mangle his name. Or better yet, throw in a “shizzle” or three for maximum mortification.
“California Girls” The Beach Boys - I am not a Beach Boys fan in the least, yet I am biologically bound to showcase an awkward collapse-at-the-waist-like-a-plastic-camping-cup bounce when anyone plays this song. There is no way to dance to it, yet there is no way to avoid this perennial summer favorite. Your children’s eyes may never roll forward again.
“Good Vibrations” The Beach Boys - And speaking of Beach Boys hits, any song with an opportunity to maintain long periods of silence before shouting, “BAH BAH BAH BAH BAAAAAAAAAH BAHBAHBAHBAH” makes for the perfect balance of public shame and surprise. It will totally give the kids in your life excitations.
“Summer Nights Grease Mega Mix” - John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, et al. Your parents hated it. Now your kids can, too!
“Suddenly Last Summer” The Motels - A song your kids don’t know that lets you really emote, affecting a inimitable voice? Count me in. They will initially be curious, trying to figure out what, exactly, you’re singing at them. By the time you hit the wailing chorus, it’ll be too late.
“Summer Breeze” Seals and Croft - Everyone is born hating this song. Mrs. Seals and Mama Croft hate this effing song. The only think anyone wants blowing through the jasmine in their mind when they hear it? A mallet. Yet, somehow, through a deal with God and/or the Devil, this song plays on repeat: radio, movies, commercials. You can’t escape it. All you can do is put aside your innate loathing and torture them with it.
“Summer in the City” Lovin’ Spoonful - But, Molly, what could be wrong with such a gritty classic? For one, it will momentarily fool anyone singing along into thinking that they, too, sound gritty. I promise you: you are not gritty. And no one knows this better than your children who believe that you were born with a innate love of calendars, good gas mileage, and SPF 50. The other potential for embarrassment here: you don’t know the words. You think you so until you start tumbling down hill at 80 miles per hour shouting nonsense syllables and landing with great flourish on ”hotterthanamatchYEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”
Admit it. Your own skin is crawling. I, for one, am envisioning my otherwise-rhythmically-inclined mom doing an awkward shimmy to “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone. And 15-year-old me wants to die. 34-year-old me wants to high-five her, out of reverence but also to embarrass the shit out of my kid.